With longtime state lawmaker Sen. Darrell Steinberg leaving the Legislature this year because of term limits, two Democratic assemblymen and a Republican pastor are vying to replace him.
The race is shaped by California’s “top-two” primary, a 2-year-old system that allows the top two vote-getters on June 3 – regardless of party affiliation – to advance to the general election on Nov. 4.
Democrats dominate the district, and the two Sacramento Democrats in the contest – Assemblymen Richard Pan and Roger Dickinson – have amassed six-figure war chests for a head-to-head battle that could last months.
Two Republicans are on the ballot, but only one is actively campaigning, and he has raised little money compared with his Democratic rivals. Pastor Jonathan Zachariou has reported just $6,150 in contributions. James Axelgard said he dropped out of the race after learning another Republican would run but decided too late to remove his name from the ballot.
Pan and Dickinson both joined the Assembly in 2010. In their current districts, Dickinson represents West Sacramento, Sacramento and its communities to the north – Rio Linda, Antelope and Elverta. Pan represents Sacramento’s south side, including Elk Grove, Clarksburg, Galt and Lodi.
Pan is working hard to boost his name recognition and establish himself as the outsider candidate challenging a longtime politician. He is highlighting his career as a doctor in every campaign ad.
Outside interest groups are turning out big to help Pan advance to the general election, pouring at least $479,000 into independent campaigns to benefit him. The money comes from labor unions representing health care workers, university professors, school employees and construction workers, as well as groups that represent doctors, dentists and real estate agents.
Dickinson, a longtime Sacramento officeholder, has done little advertising this season, indicating he expects his fight will be in November.
Biography: Dickinson, 63, has been in elected office for more than 20 years, winning a seat on the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors in 1993. After 17 years on the board, he was elected to the Assembly in 2010. An attorney, Dickinson worked for the Department of Consumer Affairs from 1977 to 1984. He practiced law from 1984 to 1996.
On the issues: He supports high-speed rail and opposes Gov. Jerry Brown’s water tunnels. Dickinson is against recreational marijuana and suggests California should learn from legalization efforts in Washington and Colorado. On taxes, he would create a state-based earned income tax credit for working families.
Key supporters: California Democratic Party, California Teachers Association, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg
Biography: Pan, 48, is a pediatrician who was first elected to the Assembly in 2010. When redistricting forced him into the same district as Dickinson, he established a residence in a neighboring district to win re-election. Pan served on the Sacramento County First Five Commission from 1999 to 2005 and was an assistant professor of pediatrics at UC Davis from 2005 to 2013.
On the issues: He supports high-speed rail and has called for greater water conservation and new environment-friendly technology to better manage groundwater. He opposes recreational marijuana because of the “disruptive impact” on brain development and has called for more research on the efficacy of medical marijuana. He wants the Legislature to consider an oil severance tax and an increase to tobacco taxes.
Key supporters: California Medical Association, Service Employees International Union State Council, state Controller John Chiang
Biography: Zachariou, 50, is an ordained minister in the Assemblies of God since 1989. He has been pastor at Davis Christian Assembly since 1991 and has done public service work in a host of European countries and Brazil.
On the issues: Zachariou says he would support “true high-speed rail” but believes the current plan is planning for an outdated system. He says better water management would negate the need for more storage. He opposes recreational marijuana. On taxes, Zachariou says he would do “everything I can do to grow the private sector” and notes that it would generate more public funds.
Key supporters: Sacramento County Republican Party, Gun Owners of California, state Sen. Ted Gaines, R-Rocklin
Sources: Bee research, U.S. Census 2010, California secretary of state
Call Laurel Rosenhall, Bee Capitol Bureau, (916) 321-1083. Follow her on Twitter @LaurelRosenhall.